Caring for kids and parents at the same time is the ultimate, stressful juggling act. Millennials are “suddenly becoming the largest contingent of the sandwich generation, the cohort of adults providing financial and other support to both children and elderly parents,” according to USA Today.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Tips for Taking Care of Your Aging Parents And Children If You All Live Together
- Tips for Taking Care of Your Aging Parents and Children If You Live Apart
College-aged kids are moving back home, aging adults are moving in with their adult children, and it seems like everyone is trying to save money by living together. Even in situations where your kids live apart, you still have to balance caregiving duties for your parents and your kids.
Loss of employment for all age groups has been significant, creating a need for generations to help each other. Being a caregiver for several generations can be a challenge, but with enough planning, it can also be fruitful.
Tips for Taking Care of Your Aging Parents And Children If You All Live Together
All three generations living together may be temporary, more permanent, or up in the air. The kids might be younger, teenage, or young adults. Some of these tips can be flexible to account for age differences. Younger children may need more emotional support, but don’t forget that a young adult also experiences changes and needs support.
1. Do advance planning
Advance planning is one of the best preemptive things you can do to prevent problems before they arise. Having discussions about in-home care, senior housing options, and end-of-life wishes help to establish some ground rules. Even if your parents have already moved in with you, it is never too late to do advance planning.
When a crisis occurs suddenly, your time and energy are focused on your aging parent to the expense of your children. The more you know about their preferences before that happens, the better. Advance planning can be the underpinning of supportive decision-making when you need it most.
2. Consider space and privacy
Everyone needs space and privacy. When you and your kids live together with aging parents, your kids might feel short-changed on their space. Kids can be very sensitive about privacy, especially as they enter their teen years.
Depending on your specific living situation, space might be limited. Do what you can to create enough space for everyone to feel like they have privacy. Respecting the boundaries of both your kids and your parents might mean establishing some ground rules.
3. Involve kids when possible
Involving your kids when possible in activities with your parents will benefit everyone. Some ideas can include games, walks, teaching technology, and watching movies together. Look at this as a unique opportunity to bring your kids closer to their grandparents.
You may want to use caution in including kids with actual hands-on caregiver duties since that might be a level of responsibility they aren’t ready for. But, they can run errands and help with household chores and assume other tasks to relieve some of your caregiver burdens.
4. Manage competing demands
Depending on how much your aging parents require, kids can feel left out. These two generations’ emotional needs can be very different but equally demanding, which puts enormous pressure on you. You might have to set some limits on your aging parents if they are the challenging and demanding types. Your kids may have to come first unless they are unreasonably demanding as well.
Look to your spouse or partner if you have one to help meet the needs of each generation and diffuse conflict and disagreements.
5. Outsource tasks
Just about anything can be outsourced these days for a price. However, the price can be worth it to save your sanity and keep everyone happy. The more time you have for your family and yourself, the better.
Some tasks that might be worth paying someone else to do: food/meal delivery, yard care, house cleaning, and in-home caregiving. In-home caregivers can provide hands-on care and do shopping, cooking, transportation, and activities.
6. Have regular family meetings
By regular, we mean scheduled if possible. Resentments and problems can build if not dealt with. Family meetings allow your parents and your kids to talk about issues and problem solve before things get out of hand. Sometimes, people need to vent a bit which is fine as long as things eventually turn to problem-solving rather than just complaining.
7. Talk about finances
There are several ways that kids and parents end up living with you. Either you all move in together at the same time, or you have adult kids who move back home while you are already caring for an aging parent. The other possibility is that you have an adult kid living with you, and then you take your aging parent into the household as well.
In any of these scenarios, expenses can increase significantly. To the extent possible, arrange for everyone to pay their fair share of costs associated with utilities, food, and other expenses like transportation, maintenance, and yard care. It is easier to establish those agreements early on rather than when they become a problem.
8. Ask for help from siblings
You might not think it is appropriate to ask your siblings for help with your kids, but asking for help with your parents is reasonable. If it seems like an imposition, start with small tasks that can help alleviate your burden, like shopping, picking up prescriptions, or transportation to doctor’s appointments. Most siblings are more than willing to help if they know what to do.
9. Have a plan B
Having a plan B means an alternative if things don’t work out. This isn’t easy because it entails asking your adult child or your parent to find other arrangements. Perhaps your kids need to move on and be more independent. Or your aging parent needs more help than you can provide at home comfortably and safely.
A plan B works best when everyone agrees to the conditions that would prompt a change in living situation. Talk openly about what specific circumstances might arise that would change the living situation.
10. Take care of yourself
Caregiver burnout is probably more likely in a situation where you, your kids, and parents are living together. It is easy to get caught up in everyone else’s needs and wants without attending to your own spiritual, emotional, and physical health.
Taking time for yourself might seem like a luxury, but it is essential for your health and well-being. Find activities that can help you renew your spirit and keep you focused on the family you love.
Tips for Taking Care of Your Aging Parents and Children If You Live Apart
If you live apart from your kids and your parents, it can be a good news/bad news situation. On the one hand, you don’t have either your kids or parents in your space, but on the other, you may not know what is really going on. Sometimes the unknown may leave you feeling uninformed and unprepared.
11. Schedule visits
Schedule visits to both your children and your parents. Sometimes an in-person visit is the best way to assess needs. Your children might be living with another relative or a friend. Perhaps they have struggled with employment and look to you for financial support. Or they are in school and need assistance with academics.
Your parent might be on the cusp of needing more care and haven’t let you know that. A visit can tell you a lot about how they are doing and what kind of help they need.
12. Identify needs
Identifying and clarifying the needs of both your children and your parents will help focus your efforts. Otherwise, you will feel like you are running in circles without getting much accomplished. Identifying needs also sets limits on what you can do and what you can’t. Financial support can get out of hand quickly, and you don’t need to put yourself in a stressful situation where you start to struggle too.
13. Set goals
Children, either younger or older, sometimes need help setting goals. Work with your children to help them become more independent and self-sufficient. When it comes to your parents, sit down and talk about what they need and how to best make that happen.
If your parent has come to depend on you heavily, you may need to start introducing the idea of in-home caregivers or other resources to help. Sometimes having solutions for either children or your parents takes the pressure off of you and assigns some responsibility.
14. Set limits
Your family is important to you, but you may also have a career, outside interests, and of course, a spouse or partner who needs you. At some point, it might be necessary to set some limits in terms of time, money, and effort. Sometimes the more you give, the more people take. Defining what you can and can’t do is healthy.
15. Use technology
If you can’t visit in person either due to distance or time, use technology to check in. Your children will be all over that, but your parent might not be as adept. Ask a sibling or your child to help a parent learn to use it and set it up. Maintaining contact can keep you emotionally connected to your children and your parents.
Caring for Kids and Parents at the Same Time
You may be thinking, “I didn’t sign up for this!” Taking care of kids and parents at the same time can be a shocking and unexpected situation. The foundation of good caregiving is love and compassion, but it is also being prepared. Hopefully, some of these tips can help you manage your kids and parents in the best way possible.
- Davidson, Paul. “As COVID-19 Rages, Millennials Make up Growing Share of 'Sandwich Generation,' Caring for Kids and Parents” USA Today, 18 November 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/11/18/sandwich-generation-covid-19-forces-more-millennials-care-kids-parents/6331624002/
- Fry, Richard, Jeffrey S. Passel, and D’Vera Cohn. “A Majority of Young Adults in the U.S. Live With Their Parents for the First Time Since the Great Depression.” Pew Research Center, 4 September 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/09/04/a-majority-of-young-adults-in-the-u-s-live-with-their-parents-for-the-first-time-since-the-great-depression/